Date of Award

Spring 5-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program




Major Professor

Robert Dupont

Second Advisor

John Fitzmorris

Third Advisor

Mary Mitchell


Sugar planters in Louisiana during Reconstruction needed to replace the enslaved labor force that had fled the plantation system after the Civil War. These Louisiana planters took inspiration from the system of coolie labor in Cuba, wherein exploited Chinese indentured servants would work on sugar plantation alongside enslaved Africans. The white Cuban planters’ goal was to ethnically diversify their plantation labor force, thus making the existing power structures easier to maintain while avoiding slave uprising by manufacturing racial divisions among the labor force. Sugar planters in Louisiana intended to recreate the Cuban system to compel Freedmen to work for less than their worth by importing Chinese laborers, whom they thought would work for lower wages than Freedmen would have accepted otherwise. The Louisiana coolie experiment was an economic failure for sugar planters due to Republican intervention, white supremacist rhetoric, and resistance from the Chinese themselves.


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